- Older patients who undergo hemodialysis are found to have a cerebral blood flow decline by 10%, from before the start to the end of hemodialysis.
- Scientists observed decline in cerebral blood flow in all brain regions such as the frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital lobes; cerebellum; and thalamus.
The reason behind the hemodialysis and cognitive function failure is discovered in a new study. Hemodialysis reduces the blood flow to brain in older patients who are being treated for kidney failure. The findings of the study are published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN).
More than 2 million people with kidney failure worldwide currently receive treatment with dialysis or a kidney transplant to stay alive, with the majority of patients undergoing hemodialysis. Recent studies have provided increasing evidence that although conventional in-center hemodialysis can prolong lives, it may also have negative effects on the brain that lead to cognitive deficits. Investigators have hypothesized that the repetitive circulatory stress of hemodialysis--which filters a patient's blood outside the body before returning it--may reduce the blood supply to the brain; however, the mechanisms involved are unclear.
To investigate, Harmke Polinder-Bos, MD (University Medical Center Groningen, in The Netherlands) and her colleagues studied the effects of conventional hemodialysis on cerebral blood flow (CBF), measured by special positron emission tomography-computed tomography imaging tests. During single hemodialysis sessions in 12 patients ?65 years of age, 3 scans were performed: before, early after the start of, and at the end of hemodialysis.
"The findings of this study are an important step in understanding the negative effect of hemodialysis on the brain," said Dr. Polinder-Bos. "These findings might form a point of departure for further research to develop hemodialysis protocols that minimize or prevent cerebrovascular stress."
In an accompanying perspective article, Dawn F. Wolfgram, MD (Medical College of Wisconsin and Clement Zablocki VA Medical Center) noted that for many patients there may be other options available for treating kidney failure. "Peritoneal dialysis, short frequent home dialysis, and nocturnal dialysis do not cause the significant hemodynamic stress that commonly accompanies conventional hemodialysis," she wrote. "The underutilization of these alternative dialytic techniques in the United States may have allowed the complications of hemodialysis to become more apparent, especially as older and sicker patients begin renal replacement therapy with in- center hemodialysis."